Saturday, December 23, 2006

Family Festive Feast

Tonight was the annual family festive thing, which I think went with a swing. I planned my usual over ambitious (never knowingly under catered!) menu to cater for various tastes and unfortunately illness made us two short for the first time ever. I should have prepared enough food for eight not ten but I probably catered for twenty! Well that's tomorrow's meal sorted out then! And possibly the day after also!

There was offering of a welcoming Winter PIMM'S. Then we started with the canapés piled up attractively on M's new black and silver platter and plates and further square silver platters lined with black sequined mats. We had mini beef Wellingtons, scallop croustades and truffled wild mushroom tartlets from the ever-reliable Bigham's, Parma ham wrapped figs, tiny scallop soups and some special spoons loaded with lobster, hot smoked salmon and prawns from M&S. The mini beef Wellingtons were as wonderful as ever and the scallop on top of the pea puréed covered croustade worked well but the truffled tartlets did not want to leave the comfort of their baking tray when they were baked. No amount of persuasion would get them out intact from their tray, I'm pretty sure I read the instructions properly and even though I was able to partially rescue them with the suggested use of a spoon they looked rather like roadkill.

The Parma ham wrapped dried figs was the Nigella inspired nibble though mine were entirely goat free and cream cheese replaced the offending goats' cheese. The gorgeous silky scallop soup was topped with Parma ham crisps and the Parmesan croutons were placed at the bottom of each espresso cup before topping up with soup. These didn't need spoons and were a tasty and welcome addition to the canapés. I'm not a huge fan of prawns and as I realise that most of the world prefer them to me so I just handed the prawns over to the nearest eager recipient and ate the lobster and hot smoked salmon instead. The toughened white plastic spoons were quite elegant and will come in handy for future little nibbles. It was rather daunting to consider that this was just the taster and there was considerably more food to follow!

(M wants me to mention her new black Christmas tree!)

We bucked the trend and as we were two visitors short we would eschew the usual buffet style and eat off your lap in favour of a sit down meal. This meant a foray up into the loft for the extra dining chairs and some other spare ones.

The main feature was a Nigella recipe for a spectacular one-pot chicken, sausage, sage and onion. I thought this would do away with the need to carve. The potato and leek boulangère from the Waitrose magazine, sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta, Chantenay carrots in olrossa sherry and finally some purple sprouting broccoli, accompanied this. The recipe for the boulangère was rather odd, it called for 800g of leeks, this is a lot of leeks and I was only able to cram half of that into the largest pan for sautéing. The resultant dish was okay but maybe too liquid. I had originally planned a gratin Daupinoise but thought the boulangère might be a lighter option. I had worried that there was nowhere near enough sprouts but as seemingly only I really like them I need not have panicked. In fact some thoughts for next time: G's only green vegetable is peas, maybe I should abandon sprouts and do some sort of petits pois à la Française; cousin J doesn't like fruit with savoury (a la figs in Parma ham); big A prefers Becks or Grolsch (probably chilled!) and along with little A will eat most things. N was suspicious about the chicken at first but relented but wasn't ever going to trust a sprout and was deeply disturbed by the ginger in the puddings. K seemed to like most things (or was too polite to say otherwise) and M enjoyed the canapés but then couldn't face more than her customary two sprouts and an iota of chicken.

Desserts were warm mini crepes filled with either orange cream or chocolate cream and mini fruit tarts from M&S and finally the ginger chocolate pots topped with a chocolate ginger. N initially tucked into her little ramekin with gusto until she hit the stem ginger at the bottom. My recipe was for four so I doubled it for eight and perhaps the ramekins I used were slightly smaller than anticipated but I could have easily filled ten or eleven ramekins with that mixture. That meant dessert was sorted for the next few meals as well! I’d also forgotten from the last time I made this (New Year’s eve last year) that you get ever so sticky. You get sticky, the chopping board gets sticky and your knife gets sticky. The urge to jump in a bath straight after preparing this dessert is very strong.

The crepes were okay and the mini tarts looked very pretty but I couldn't accommodate one after the ginger chocolate pot. In fact we filled the cheeseboards with a fine array of cheeses, grapes, bread and cheese biscuits but not even the merest morsel of cheese was consumed, I guess we were all well and truly festively stuffed! Until next time!

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